How will Varela’s new immigration measures affect expats

If you are an expat living in Panama, you might be wondering how the new immigration measures announced by the Juan Carlos Varela administration will affect you. Well now, the answer might differ depending on the passport you hold.

ON May 31st 2017 it was published in the official gazette, that foreign nationals from Colombia, Venezuela and Nicaragua will only be able to obtain a tourist visa for 90 days.  

We spoke with Yasser Williams of Williams & Williams Law Firm, who confirmed that the new law will only affect Colombians, Venezuelans and Nicaraguans. “Canadians and Americans will continue to be able to stay in the country for 180 days”

While North Americans will not be affected by the recent change, the “perpetual tourist” may be no longer,` due to a previous change in Panama’s immigration law. Earlier this year a law was passed requiring any tourist who spends 180 days in the country to leave for 30 days. Only after 30 days outside the country, will the visitor be allowed to re-enter Panama.

This law could pose a problem for expats living in Panama without residency, as having to leave for a whole month is quite different than a simple border run. We spoke to Yasser about the logistics of gaining residency with the new immigration measures. Yasser explained “getting residency in Panama is actually pretty affordable, and it is still quite easy for North Americans, with visas such as the Friendly Nations Visa. “Our law firm even provides payment plans making it an option for most.”

While Panama offers a variety of residency options, there are a few restrictions on who will be accepted. One restriction is that Panama will not grant residency to anyone with a criminal record.  This has been an issue for some as even a small misdemeanor can be a problem.

So while there are new immigration measures underway, travelers from places like Canada and the United States can continue to spend a duration of 6 months in Panama as a tourist without obtaining residency. While it is true that after 6 months in the country, 30 days will need to be spent outside the country, there are options.

Find out what your options are. Speak with Yasser at Williams & Williams by emailing